Dear Friends and Family,
With your support, I rode in my third JDRF ride, 100 miles in La Crosse, Wisconsin!!
Although this was my third ride for JDRF, and much of the format was the same, each ride is inspiring in its own way. This one was different before we even started. It was the largest Indiana State Team that I would be traveling and riding with yet. There were 16 of us, and 6 first-time JDRF riders this year!
Many of us met at the JDRF office the Thursday before the ride, to decorate cars, load bikes, and carpool to La Crosse. It was an early morning and a great way to start the day! It’s fun to road trip with so many friends. And of course, we stopped at the “World’s” Largest Culver’s along the way!
We arrived Thursday, checked in to get our welcome packets and dropped our bikes in the bike room. It’s amazing to see so many bikes in one place…especially knowing there are so many riders, riding and raising money for such a great cause. Many of them have a personal connection that you can see on their bikes, pictures, and names. We enjoyed a welcome dinner and walked a bit to relax before turning in for the night.
Friday started with breakfast and the mandatory Safety Meeting, a must for every ride. It’s a helpful reminder to all of us, for example: tapping our helmets to let a SAG (Support and Gear) vehicle know we need help vs. waving which may just mean “hi!”, coaches are willing to assist in tire changing, and what the route is like, and where we turn around. Then we were off to the bike room to grab our bikes and take a quick tune-up ride to ensure our bikes were ready to go for Saturday. Matt and Evan had a flat issue, so it was a short ride, but way better to get that fixed on Friday!
Friday night is the Inspiration and Award dinner. And it fits the name to a tee. It’s amazing to see and hear so many stories…it always makes me cry, especially hearing about the families, the perseverance, and the triumph. This year they also did a Family Feud type game …and both Devon and Emily participated! It was a blast!
Saturday dawned bright and early…
Our route takes us through parts of 3 different states: Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. It’s way cool.
It was a beautiful cool morning to start and stayed that way for quite a while. It was everything I remembered and more. A bit foggy and cool…enough that I took my sunglasses off. We rode together as a team, single file, meeting others as we passed them. Everyone is usually so energetic and excited, at least in the morning. We make new friends, learn why others are riding, and encourage each other every step of the way. We tried to do fairly quick SAG stops again this year so that we continued to make good time but also got the food and water we needed. And they’re always stocked very well! One thing I love about riding is that I get to eat things I normally wouldn’t J …cookies and chips, Oh My!
The first half of the course went very well. Even as the sun came up and the day warmed, the weather remained beautiful and our spirits strong. The turnaround is the most difficult for me, mentally and physically. The long low grade climb at the beginning of the loop seems to take forever, and takes so much energy. I kept at it….slow and steady. Once at the top and after the turn, the larger rolling hills can look intimidating. But once you climb, the speed on the downhill helps you to climb the next…and wow! It was so much better than last year! I climbed faster, sped downhill, and completed the loop in record time. The final downhill is long, and tucked low on the bike, you can gain so much speed. It was exhilarating! I grinned the whole time.
Now we just had to bring it back home! It’s mostly flat, but the small hills still take more effort after 50 miles. We broke into two groups for the last 30 miles or so. I decided to ride with the faster group. It was fantastic. The hills were still hard, and I had to fight to keep up, but as always, we stuck together and encouraged each other. We couldn’t wait to get to the finish line! A quick flat change for Julie at mile 99, and we were there!!!! So amazing!
The first time, the emotions were so strong, I barely made it beyond the finish line before bursting into tears. This was different…still so many emotions, but more happiness and feeling inspired. Off to ice cream and a beer…yes, together, because at the end of a JDRF ride, why not?! We waited for the rest of our team to ride in, reminiscing already about parts of the ride and looking forward to the celebration dinner.
Saturday Night Awards dinner always comes with more tears…more personal stories. It reminds me of why I do this…how I was inspired by my friends…and why I keep coming back.
I couldn’t have done this without the support and encouragement of my teammates. All of the training rides, the laughter, and the coaching throughout the season keep me going and reminds me that family comes in many forms.
And I couldn’t have done this without your generosity and support. You were with me every pedal stroke, for every mile.
Together we did this; Together we’re making a difference!